CBO: Gang of Eight Bill Would Reduce Illegal Immigration by Just 25 Percent

by Andrew Stiles

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its analysis of the economic impact of the Gang of Eight’s immigration-reform proposal. Proponents are likely to emphasize the report’s findings that the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion over the next decade (although Republicans will likely be asked to explain why this estimate is any more reliable than the CBO’s predictions regarding Obamacare).

However, the bill’s supporters are certain to downplay other aspects of the CBO report, particularly the section on “Future Unauthorized Residents.” The CBO predicts that some of the bill’s enforcement measures, such as the establishment of an employment-verification system, are likely to reduce the future flow of illegal immigrants, but they’re less optimistic about the bill’s ability to stop individuals from overstaying their temporary work visas, a problem that accounts for at least 40 percent of the existing population of illegal immigrants. 

“Other aspects of the bill would probably increase the number of unauthorized residents — in particular, people overstaying their visas issued under the new programs for temporary workers,” CBO writes. And as a result, “the net annual flow of unauthorized residents would decrease by about 25 percent relative to what would occur under current law.” That’s not an insignificant reduction, but it hardly inspires confidence that Gang’s proposal will be more successful than the failed 1986 reform bill at preventing future illegal immigration. Regarding our current levels of illegal immigration, Senator Marco Rubio has often said one of the goal’s of this bill is “to ensure this never happens again in the future.”

Congress has already passed laws (following the 9/11 terror attacks) meant to tackle the visa-overstay problem, but the federal government has yet to install a biometric entry-exit system to make sure individuals leave the country when they are supposed to. Rubio has repeatedly idenitified this as a flaw in the current immigration system, and has said he would not support a reform bill unless “enforcement mechanisms are in place.”

On Tuesday, Rubio joined Democrats and six other Republicans to defeat an amendment to the bill that would have required the implementation of an entry-exit system to track visa overstays before illegal immigrants are granted legal status. Despite expressing his “support” for the “goal” of the amendment, offered by Senator David Vitter (R., La.), Rubio said in a statement that he opposed the amendment because it “delays the process of submitting illegal immigrants to background checks and the imposition of fines for having violated our immigration laws.” He promised to ”continue working with my Republican colleagues to improve the entry-exit system measures in the legislation.”

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